Thug guilty of torch­ing house over al­leged £10,000 drug debt

Sunderland Echo - - Front Page - By Rob Freeth echo.news@north­east-press.co.uk Twit­ter: @sun­der­lan­de­cho

An un­der­world en­forcer who set three fires in a bid to re­cover an al­leged drugs debt is fac­ing years in prison.

Alan Smart was con­victed of two of­fences of ar­son, and one of­fence of ar­son with in­tent to en­dan­ger life af­ter a trial last­ing five weeks.

David Roberts, who helped start the most se­ri­ous fire, was con­victed of ar­son be­ing reck­less as to whether life was en­dan­gered.

Pros­e­cu­tor Peter Make­peace QC, said that given Smart’s record of vi­o­lence and the se­ri­ous­ness of his of­fend­ing the court would have to con­sider a life sen­tence in his case.

Judge Deborah Sher­win ad­journed the case un­til this morn­ing to give the lawyers in the case time to pre­pare le­gal sub­mis­sions about sen­tenc­ing.

The judge said she may sen­tence the pair to­day, or the case may have to be ad­journed for back­ground re­ports on Smart. Robert Wood­cock QC, de­fend­ing Smart, said his ini­tial view was that he would like Smart to be sen­tenced to­day.

In the last five weeks, the jury at Teesside Crown Court heard Smart made an ar­range­ment with a large-scale drugs dealer to re­cover debts on the dealer’s be­half.

One of the al­leged debtors was rap singer David Baker who, the court heard, owed a drugs debt of £10,000.

Smart set about try­ing to re­cover the debt, and was an­noyed when he heard Mr Baker had bought a car.

Pros­e­cu­tors said Smart was fur­ther en­raged by a “dis­re­spect­ful” rap song re- corded by Mr Baker in which he in­sulted Smart and mem­bers of his fam­ily.

Smart set two fires at houses in Sea­ham known to be oc­cu­pied by Mr Baker.

The most se­ri­ous fire at Princess Road trapped Mr Baker’s part­ner at the time, Vicki Barnes, in her bed­room. She jumped to safety onto the roof of an out­house.

Smart, 39, of Shrews­bury Cres­cent, Hum­ble­don, Sun­der­land, de­nied ar­son on De­cem­ber 23 and 24, both 2011, and he de­nied ar­son with in­tent to en­dan­ger life on April 29, 2012.

Roberts, 54, of Sor­ley Street, Mill­field, Sun­der­land, de­nied ar­son with in­tent to en­dan­ger life on April 29, 2012.

Smart was con­victed of all charges.

Roberts was con­victed of the lesser charge of ar­son be­ing reck­less as to whether life was en­dan­gered.

The jury re­turned its ver­dicts af­ter de­lib­er­at­ing for more than 12 hours.

Both men were re­manded in cus­tody pend­ing sen­tence.

The court heard he owed a drugs debt of £10,000

Alan Smart and the prop­erty in Princess Road, Sea­ham, af­ter the ar­son raid.

The dam­age to the house af­ter the ar­son at­tack in Princess Road, Sea­ham.

Alan Smart

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